NCC will have gateway to Riverwalk
By Hank Beckman For The Sun May 18, 2011 1:10PM
This drawing shows what the Riverwalk extension into the North Central College area will look like when completed. | Courtesy of North Central College
A Riverwalk primer
The Naperville Riverwalk originated in 1980 during the administration of former Mayor Chester Rybicki.
Seeking to turn dilapidated land — what some called a public eyesore — into a useable public space that would aesthetically enhance the downtown area, the city put up $200,000 in seed money to get the project up and running.
The original fundraising effort was so successful that it raised three times the anticipated amount.
Local businessman James Moser worked with the city and architect Charles Vincent George to plan and build the Riverwalk, which was completed in various phases.
Phase 1, the original Riverwalk, was constructed from Main Street to Webster Street along Jackson Avenue and was completed in 1981.
The second phase was the west extension, reaching Jefferson Avenue in 1995. The Riverwalk also was extended east to Washington Street by the mid-90s.
The third phase was the east extension, from Washington Street to Hillside Road. This phase took place between 1997 and 2003 and included the Riverwalk Brick Sale of 2000, which allowed private citizens to purchase a brick for the path, on which they could inscribe a private message.
Updated: June 22, 2011 9:39AM
The Naperville Riverwalk currently ends just before merging with the campus of North Central College. That’s about to change.
About 100 people showed up Wednesday for an early morning breakfast at Wentz Hall to catch a glimpse of the plans to extend the Riverwalk and create a gateway onto the North Central campus.
“We’re transforming something that is literally the back of the house,” Rick Hitchcock, design consultant and former chairman of the Riverwalk Commission, said. “It’s the back of everything.”
The area Hitchcock referenced is just west of Wehrli-Benedetti Stadium, a space that sits just behind and down a hill from the commercial building housing Bar Louie, Starbucks and various other private businesses.
The areas adjacent to Moser Bridge and Fredenhagen Park will be enhanced and serve as the two entrance points onto the North Central campus at the stadium’s west end.
The idea behind the $500,000 project is to provide a connection between the downtown area and the campus.
“Hundreds of people come through there every day,” Hitchcock said. “It will help open up the college to the Riverwalk and the downtown community.”
The new pathways — one from Fredenhagen Park and the other from Moser Bridge — will lead into a pair of gateway entrances, complete with a pair of stone columns and new brick paths.
Also in the plans, which Hitchcock said were almost entirely complete, were a new stairway, improved lighting and a landscaping makeover.
The brick for the pathways will be similar to that currently on the Riverwalk. But a slightly different color brick once inside the stadium will serve to mark the area as college property.
The college will begin the renovation of the field and track next to the stadium within a week.
Fundraising for the actual pathway enhancements are in process and will continue through the end of the year.
“There’s funding to be raised,” Rick Spencer, North Central vice president of Institutional Advancement, said.
Spencer said that while all donations are welcome, the focus of the effort was aimed at North Central alumni, Riverwalk supporters and community members.
Construction on the project is scheduled for spring 2012.
Providing a final link from the downtown area to the college is a key objective of the project.
“We want to connect the assets of the neighborhood and this institution (the college),” Hitchcock said, stressing that the project would serve needs other than the purely practical goal of connecting separate parts of the neighborhood. “It’s beautiful place to take a walk.” City Riverwalk Administrator Jan Erickson was happy that the project was finally happening.
“We are very excited about partnering with North Central College,” she said. “This is a project that has been in the works for quite some time.”
While Erickson admires the aesthetics of the new proposal, she also appreciates the practical aspects involved.
“We’re utilizing the assets of both properties (college and city) to move people in a safe, efficient manner,” she said.
For further information, or for those wishing to make a donation to the Riverwalk Gateway, contact Jan Erickson at firstname.lastname@example.org.